Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
1
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
2
17(a) of the Securities Act (the “Act”); (2) ...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
3
subject of judicial notice. Heliotrope Gen., ...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
4
B. Rule 9(b) – First and Second Causes of Act...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
5
Feng represented to Promoters that individual...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
6
Furthermore, Defendants filed an answer to th...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
7
2005). Statutes regulating businesses are sub...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
8
sufficient specificity under Rule 9(b). Furth...
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
DONALD W. SEARLES, Cal. Bar No. 135705
Email: s...
2
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
2. Defendants have, directly or indirectly, m...
3
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
received at least $1,168,000 in commissions f...
4
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
office in Alhambra, California. Feng founded ...
5
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
17. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program requi...
6
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
focused on the EB-5 investment program, in on...
7
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
not the administrative fees, for the purpose ...
8
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
returns if the Promoters extended the loan te...
9
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
52. Feng interfaced directly with the Promote...
10
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
62. Feng is not, and has never been, registe...
11
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
the Promoters, Defendants only told their cl...
12
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
these “nominees” or “surrogates” were the on...
13
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
controlled.
87. Feng had his relatives execu...
14
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
material fact or by omitting to state a mate...
15
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
THIRD CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Failure to Register a...
16
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
III.
Order Defendants to disgorge all ill-go...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

SEC v. HUI FENG et al., No. 15-09420 (C.D. CA Dec. 7, 2015) COMPLAINT & ORDER of Aug. 4, 2016

190 views

Published on

SEC v. HUI FENG et al., No. 15-09420 (C.D. CA Dec. 7, 2015) COMPLAINT & ORDER of Aug. 4, 2016

Published in: Investor Relations
  • Look for additional docs posted that begin: SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION v. HUI FENG, ET AL.,
       Reply 
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
  • Be the first to like this

SEC v. HUI FENG et al., No. 15-09420 (C.D. CA Dec. 7, 2015) COMPLAINT & ORDER of Aug. 4, 2016

  1. 1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, Plaintiff, vs. HUI FENG and LAW OFFICES OF FENG & ASSOCIATES P.C., Defendants. Case No. 15-cv-09420-CBM(SSx) ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS Before the Court is Defendants Hui Feng and Law Offices of Feng & Associates’ (collectively, “Defendants’”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (the “Motion”). (Dkt. No. 40.) I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint on December 7, 2015, asserting the following three causes of action against Defendants1 : (1) Fraud in the Offer or Sale of Securities, Violations of Section 1 The Complaint alleges Defendant Hui Feng is an immigration attorney, and Defendant Feng & Associates is a law firm founded by and primarily operated by Feng. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.) Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 1 of 8 Page ID #:4519 Defendant is alleged to have acted as an unregistered broker-dealer of securities, and to have collected fees and commissions from his immigration law clients and promoters of EB-5 Regional Center Projects. The Complaint dated December 7, 2015, is attached to this Order; Doc. 56 in this case, so far. By Joseph P. Whalen at 11:32 pm, Aug 15, 2016
  2. 2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 17(a) of the Securities Act (the “Act”); (2) Fraud in Connection with the Purchase or Sale of Securities, Violations of Section 10(b) of the Act and Rule 10b-5; and (3) Failure to register as a broker-dealer in violation of Section 15(a) of the Act. The SEC’s claims arise from the alleged offering and sale of EB-5 investments2 to Defendants’ immigration law clients without disclosing commissions Defendants received from Promoters, and Defendants’ alleged false representation to Promoters that foreign-based persons were responsible for finding investors rather than Feng. Defendants filed an answer to the Complaint on February 16, 2016. (Dkt. No. 9.) II. LEGAL STANDARD A. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(c) Under Rule 12(c), the Court “inquires whether the complaint at issue contains ‘sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim of relief that is plausible on its face.’” Harris v. Cnty. of Orange, 682 F.3d 1126, 1131 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A motion for judgment on the pleadings may be based on either a lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959-60 (9th Cir. 2013). In a motion for a judgment on the pleadings for failure to state a claim, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded allegations of material fact and construes them in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Blantz v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., 727 F.3d 917, 922 (9th Cir. 2013). The Court must also assume as true contents of documents incorporated by reference. U.S. v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court may also consider facts contained in materials properly the 2 The Complaint alleges that Congress created the EB-5 immigrant investor program in 1992 (the “Program”), which sets aside permanent visas for foreign investors, who invest in certain capital investments administered by regional centers and limited partnerships (collectively, “Promoters”) approved of by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and certain family members. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 12-21.) Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 2 of 8 Page ID #:4520
  3. 3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 subject of judicial notice. Heliotrope Gen., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 189 F.3d 971, 981 n.18 (9th Cir. 1999). B. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 9(b) When fraud is alleged in a party’s pleading, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) requires that the party’s pleading state with particularity the circumstances constituting the fraud. Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b); Kerns v. Ford Motor Co., 567 F.3d 1120, 1124 (9th Cir. 2009). “Averments of fraud must be accompanied by ‘the who, what, when, where, and how’ of the misconduct charged.” Vess v. Ciba- Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1106 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 627 (9th Cir. 1997)). The purpose of Rule 9(b) is to require plaintiffs to plead fraud with sufficient particularity so that defendants have “notice of the particular misconduct . . . so that they can defend against the charge and not just deny that they have done anything wrong.” Kerns, 567 F.3d at 1124. “In a securities fraud action, a pleading is sufficient under Rule 9(b) if it identifies the circumstances of the alleged fraud so that the defendant can prepare an adequate answer.” Kaplan v. Rose, 49 F.3d 1363, 1370 (9th Cir. 1994). See also Moore v. Kayport Package Exp., Inc., 885 F.2d 531, 540 (9th Cir. 1989). III. DISCUSSION A. Requests for Judicial Notice Pending before the Court are four requests for judicial notice filed in connection with the Motion. The Court: (1) GRANTS Defendants’ requests for judicial notice in their entirety (Dkt Nos. 41, 47); (2) GRANTS the SEC’s first request for judicial notice (Dkt. No. 44-1) as to Exhibits 1-4, 11-18, and 20, but DENIES the request as to Exhibits 5-10 and 19; and (3) DENIES the SEC’s second request for judicial notice (Dkt. No. 49) in its entirety.3 3 The Court grants Defendants’ request to strike the SEC’s Response to Defendants’ Objections to Plaintiff’s Request for Judicial Notice (Dkt. No. 52) because it was filed without leave of court in violation of Local Rule 7-10 and this Court’s Standing Order. Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 3 of 8 Page ID #:4521
  4. 4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 B. Rule 9(b) – First and Second Causes of Action4 The Court finds the Complaint pleads fraud with sufficient specificity as required under Rule 9(b) with respect to the first and second causes of action. As to the “who,” the Complaint alleges that Defendants failed to disclose to their immigration law clients participating in the Program that Defendants would receive or did receive commissions from Promoters (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6-7, 27-28, 64- 74), and that Defendants defrauded certain of the Promoters by failing to disclose Feng’s relationship with persons responsible for finding investors (Compl. ¶ 31, 75-92). 5 With respect to “what,” the Complaint alleges that Defendants (1) did not disclose to their clients Defendants’ receipt of or right to receive commissions (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 49, 57-61, 64-74); and (2) omitted/misrepresented to Promoters that nominees were separate entities or persons tasked with finding investors when they were in fact Feng, Feng’s friends and family, and Defendants’ holding company Atlantic Business Consulting Limited formed and controlled by Feng to receive commissions (Compl. ¶¶ 11, 86-90). As to the “when,” the Complaint alleges that Defendants began promoting EB-investments and recommending Promoters’ offerings to immigration law clients in 2010, but never disclosed Defendants’ receipt or right to receive commissions unless clients specifically asked. (Compl. ¶¶ 22, 28, 49, 71.) With respect to Promoters, the Complaint alleges that beginning around May 2013, 4 The SEC’s first and second causes of action are claims for fraud in the offer or sale of securities and fraud in connection with the purchase or sale of securities, respectively. 5 While the Complaint does not identify by name Defendants’ clients and the promoters who were allegedly defrauded, and does not differentiate between conduct by Feng individually versus Feng’s own law firm (for which Feng is the primary attorney), such information is within Defendants’ knowledge. See Moore, 885 F.2d at 540; Waldrup v. Countrywide Fin. Corp., 2015 WL 93363, at *8 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 5, 2015); Susilo v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 796 F. Supp. 2d 1177, 1191 (C.D. Cal. 2011); Wade v. Indus. Funding Corp., 1993 WL 650837, at *9 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 30, 1993); Cox v. Aurora Elecs., Inc., 1993 WL 652792, at *6 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 18, 1993). Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 4 of 8 Page ID #:4522
  5. 5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5 Feng represented to Promoters that individuals he designated to sign agreements or receive commissions were “partners” or “agents” but never disclosed that these persons were Feng, and/or Feng’s employees, relatives, and friends. (Compl. ¶¶ 76-92.) As to the “where,” the Complaint alleges Defendants (1) did not disclose their receipt or right to receive commissions in connection with their clients’ EB-5 investments in retainer agreements with clients, private placement memoranda coupled with other offering documents, or schedule K-1’s clients received; and (2) did not disclose their relationship with finders of investors anywhere or at any time, including in written referral agreements or through wire transfer payments from Promoters. (Compl. ¶¶ 28, 40, 46, 61, 75.) As to the “how,” the Complaint alleges that misrepresentations and omissions to Defendants’ immigration law clients were material because: (1) Defendants breached their fiduciary, legal and ethical duties to their legal clients to disclose their receipt of commissions and conflicts of interest; (2) had Defendants disclosed their receipt or right to receive commissions it would have affected the clients assessment of Defendants’ objectivity and due diligence; (3) the clients who did learn about the commission requested that Defendants refund all or a portion of the commissions; and (4) Feng did not inform clients about the commissions so he could avoid having to share or refund the commissions. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 67-74.) With respect to Promoters, the Complaint alleges that Defendants’ failure to disclose their relationship to the entities/persons finding investors was materially false and misleading because (1) certain Promoters would not have continued paying Defendants if the Promoters knew that the agreements were not signed by bona fide partners or agents; and (2) Promoters would not have continued paying Defendants if Promoters knew that the commissions they were paying were being wired to bank accounts held by Feng’s relatives, friends, and/or his overseas holding company. (Compl. ¶¶ 81-92.) Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 5 of 8 Page ID #:4523
  6. 6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 Furthermore, Defendants filed an answer to the Complaint in February 2016—and waited four months after filing their answer to file the instant Motion—which demonstrates Defendants have been able to defend against the SEC’s fraud claims based on the allegations in the Complaint. See Kaplan, 49 F.3d at 1370; Kayport Package Exp., Inc., 885 F.2d 531, 540 (9th Cir. 1989).6 Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion as to the first and second causes of action. C. Unconstitutionally Vague Challenge – Third Cause of Action Defendants argue they are entitled to judgment on the pleadings on the third cause of action for violation of Section 15(a) of the Act because the terms “security” and “broker” as used in Section 15(a) are unconstitutionally vague as applied in this case.7 There is “a presumption in favor of the constitutionality of an act of Congress.” Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733, 757 (1974). A statute is not void-for- vagueness if it provides persons of ordinary intelligence with a reasonable opportunity to understand what is meant to be prohibited and does not authorize arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. F.C.C. v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 132 S.Ct. 2307, 2317 (2012). Every concept within the statute, however, need not be precisely defined. U.S. v. Mazurie, 419 U.S. 544, 552 (1975). The Court must assess a constitutional challenge based on vagueness “in a common sense manner and in the context of the regulation’s statutory scheme.” Hanrahan v. Cole, 977 F.2d 589 (9th Cir. 1992). Where a void-for-vagueness challenge does not involve the First Amendment, the Court must examine the challenge in light of the facts of the case. S.E.C. v. Gemstar-TV Guide Int’l, Inc., 401 F.3d 1031, 1048 (9th Cir. 6 See also Miller v. Fuhu Inc., 2015 WL 2085490, at *7 (C.D. Cal. May 4, 2015); Janda v. T-Mobile, USA, Inc., 2008 WL 4847116, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 7, 2008); Washington v. Baenziger, 673 F. Supp. 1478, 1482 (N.D. Cal. 1987). 7 Section 15(a) provides that it is unlawful for a “broker” or “dealer” to “induce or attempt to induce the purchase or sale of, any security” unless the person is registered as a “broker” or “dealer” with the SEC. 15 U.S.C. 78o. Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 6 of 8 Page ID #:4524
  7. 7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7 2005). Statutes regulating businesses are subject to a less strict vagueness test. See Village of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 498 (1982); Gemstar-TV Guide Int’l, Inc., 401 F.3d at 1048. Moreover, ignorance of the law does not mean that the statute is unconstitutionally vague. See Sahab v. Baca, 2014 WL 102410, at *8 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 8, 2014); Jerman v. Carlisle et al., 559 U.S. 573, 574 (2010). The Court finds the term “security” is not so vague that an ordinary immigration attorney such as Defendants would not reasonably suspect the EB-5 investments could be construed as securities under the Act. See S.E.C. v. Edwards, 540 U.S. 389, 393 (2004) (“Congress’ purpose in enacting the securities laws was to regulate investments, in whatever form they are made and by whatever name they are called. To that end, it enacted a broad definition of ‘security,’ sufficient ‘to encompass virtually any instrument that might be sold as an investment.’”). See also Reves v. Ernst & Young, 494 U.S. 56, 60 (1990); SEC v. C.M. Joiner Leasing Corp., 320 U.S. 344, 351 (1943). The Court further finds that the term “broker” is not unconstitutionally vague because a person of ordinary intelligence placed in the same circumstances as Defendants would reasonably suspect they could be construed as a “broker” under the Act. The Court also finds Section 15(a) does not encourage arbitrary nor discriminatory enforcement. See, e.g., Maiden v. Ducart, 2016 WL 2654244, at *12 (E.D. Cal. May 10, 2016). See also U.S. v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1, 7 (1947); Jones v. Brim, 165 U.S. 180, 184 (1897).8 IV. CONCLUSION The SEC pleads its fraud claims (the second and third causes of action) with 8 The fact that the SEC has not chosen to prosecute or enforce the Act against immigration lawyers until recently is irrelevant in determining whether the statute is unconstitutionally vague as applied in this case. See 15 U.S.C. § 78z; Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 831 (1985); U.S. v. Kinzler, 55 F.3d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1995). Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 7 of 8 Page ID #:4525
  8. 8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8 sufficient specificity under Rule 9(b). Further, Section 15(a) is not unconstitutionally vague because it provides persons of ordinary intelligence with a reasonable opportunity to understand what is prohibited and does not encourage arbitrary nor discriminatory enforcement in light of the alleged facts in this case. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: August 4, 2016. ______________________________ HON. CONSUELO MARSHALL United States District Judge Case 2:15-cv-09420-CBM-SS Document 54 Filed 08/04/16 Page 8 of 8 Page ID #:4526
  9. 9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 DONALD W. SEARLES, Cal. Bar No. 135705 Email: searlesd@sec.gov MEGAN M. BERGSTROM, Bar No. 228289 Email: bergstromm@sec.gov Attorneys for Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission Michele Wein Layne, Regional Director John W. Berry, Regional Trial Counsel 444 South Flower Street, Suite 900 Los Angeles, California 90071 Telephone: (323) 965-3998 Facsimile: (213) 443-1904 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, Plaintiff, vs. HUI FENG and LAW OFFICES OF FENG & ASSOCIATES P.C., Defendants. Case No. COMPLAINT Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) alleges as follows: JURISDICTION AND VENUE 1. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to Sections 20(b), 20(d)(1) and 22(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 77t(b), 77t(d)(1) and 77v(a), and Sections 21(d)(1), 21(d)(3)(A), 21(e) and 27(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act (“Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 78u(d)(1), 78u(d)(3)(A), 78u(e), and 78aa. /// ///
  10. 10. 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2. Defendants have, directly or indirectly, made use of the means or instrumentalities of interstate commerce or of the mails, in connection with the transactions, acts, practices and courses of business alleged in this Complaint. 3. Venue is proper in this district pursuant to Section 22(a) of the Securities Act, 15 U.S.C. § 77v(a), and Section 27 of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78aa(a), because certain of the transactions, acts, practices and courses of conduct constituting violations of the federal securities laws occurred within this district. In addition, venue is proper in this district because Defendants have transacted business in this district, and the offer and sale of some of the securities, in which Defendants participated, occurred in this district. SUMMARY 4. This case involves a scheme perpetrated by Hui Feng (“Feng”), an immigration attorney, and his law firm, Law Offices of Feng & Associates P.C. (“Feng & Assocs.”) to receive undisclosed commissions for selling investments in offerings under the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program to their legal clients. In so doing, Feng and his firm also acted as unregistered brokers. 5. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program was created to stimulate the U.S. economy with capital investment from foreign investors. Under the program, foreign investors can receive a permanent visa to live and work in the U.S. if they make a capital investment that satisfies certain conditions over a two-year period, including the creation of jobs. Under the program’s regulations, the foreign investors must put “the required amount of capital at risk for the purpose of generating a return.” The investments are typically administered by “regional centers” throughout the U.S. and made in limited partnerships managed by people other than the foreign investors (collectively, the “Promoters”). 6. The Defendants offered and sold the Promoters’ EB-5 investments to their legal clients while also secretly collecting commissions from the Promoters if their clients invested in the Promoters’ offerings. The Defendants or their nominees
  11. 11. 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 received at least $1,168,000 in commissions from at least five Promoters for referring dozens of clients to invest in EB-5 offerings. The Defendants are also contractually entitled to receive at least $3,100,000 in additional commissions from the Promoters for the referral of scores of additional clients once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) approves the clients’ petitions for conditional residency. As attorneys, the Defendants had fiduciary, legal and ethical duties towards their clients to disclose their receipt of the commissions and the conflicts of interest such compensation created, but knowingly, recklessly and/or negligently failed to make the required disclosures in breach of those duties. 7. Feng and his law firm also defrauded certain of the Promoters whose offerings they marketed by using overseas nominees to receive the commissions, while falsely representing to the Promoters that those foreign-based persons were responsible for finding investors, rather than Feng. In reality, the commission recipients consisted of one of Feng’s friends, Feng’s relatives, and an entity Feng controlled, none of whom played any role in finding investors. 8. By engaging in this conduct, the Defendants have violated and are continuing to violate the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, 15 U.S.C. § 77q; Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), and Rules 10b-5(a), (b), and (c) thereunder, 17 C.F.R. §240.10b-5(a)-(c); and Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78o(a). THE DEFENDANTS 9. Hui Feng is a resident of Flushing, New York and has been licensed to practice law in New York since 1998. He has been providing immigration law services to his legal clients since approximately 2005. Feng has never been registered with the SEC in any capacity. 10. Law Offices of Feng & Associates P.C. is a New York professional corporation incorporated in October 2011. Feng & Assocs. maintains an office in Flushing, New York and, until approximately October 2014, also maintained an
  12. 12. 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 office in Alhambra, California. Feng founded the firm and is the primary attorney at the firm. Feng & Assocs. has never been registered with the SEC in any capacity. RELATED ENTITY 11. Atlantic Business Consulting Limited (“ABCL”) is a Hong Kong entity that Feng formed in April 2014 for the purpose of receiving commissions from the Promoters. Until at least December 2014, Feng controlled ABCL and its bank account. THE FRAUDULENT SCHEME A. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program 12. Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. In 1992, Congress created the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program. 13. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers approved by the USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth. 14. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is designed to attract individuals from other countries who are willing to put their capital at risk in the United States with a hope of making a return on their investment. 15. Under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, foreign investors who invest capital in a “commercial enterprise” in the United States may petition the USCIS (called an “I-526 Petition”) and receive conditional permanent residency status for a two-year period. The USCIS defines a “commercial enterprise” as any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business. 16. To qualify for the program, the foreign investors must invest $1 million ($500,000 if in a rural area or area of high unemployment) and thereby create at least ten full-time jobs for United States workers. ///
  13. 13. 5 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 17. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program requires a showing that the foreign investor “has placed the required amount of capital at risk for the purpose of generating a return on the capital placed at risk.” 18. If the foreign investor satisfies these and other conditions within the two- year period, the foreign investor may apply to have the conditions removed from his or her visa and live and work in the United States permanently. 19. Many EB-5 investments are administered by entities called “regional centers.” EB-5 regional centers are designated by the USCIS to administer the EB-5 investment projects based on proposals for promoting economic growth. 20. Regional center investment vehicles are typically offered as limited partnership interests or limited liability company units, which are managed by a person or entity other than the foreign investor, who acts as a general partner or managing member of the investment vehicle. 21. The EB-5 investments made by the Defendants’ clients were all associated with regional centers. The regional centers, the investment vehicles, and the managers thereof are collectively referred to herein as the “Promoters.” B. Defendants’ EB-5 Immigration Law Business 22. In 2010, the Defendants began promoting EB-5 investments to actual and potential immigration law clients, many of whom were located in China. 23. In 2012, Feng & Assocs. began using a Chinese language website that was hosted in the United States through 2013 to advertise the firm’s EB-5 immigration services and promote certain EB-5 investments. Feng believed that his website was popular with clients and potential clients because they “feel they are getting something independent, something objective.” 24. Feng wrote or reviewed and approved the website’s content. 25. In April 2013, Feng opened four Feng & Assocs. offices in China that were generally staffed with one non-lawyer employee each. Feng directed those employees to actively promote Feng & Assocs. and its website, which was primarily
  14. 14. 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 focused on the EB-5 investment program, in online chat rooms. 26. Through at least December 2014, the employees received compensation based on their success in having prospective clients retain Feng & Assocs. as their attorney. 27. Feng drafted and signed retainer agreements through which clients retained Feng & Assocs. The retainer agreements typically required the clients to pay a legal fee of between $10,000 and $15,000 for legal work associated with the clients’ petitions under the EB-5 program. The retainer agreements touted Feng’s purported objectivity in conscientiously studying, investigating and recommending only the most reliable EB-5 investment projects 28. The retainer agreements did not disclose the Defendants’ receipt of commissions in connection with the clients’ EB-5 investments. 29. Feng primarily communicated with his clients and the Promoters over the phone, via email, and through online chat platforms. Feng or his law office employees also met with some clients at the Feng & Assocs. office in New York. At the time they retained Feng & Assocs., some of the clients were also already residing in the United States on temporary visas. C. EB-5 Investments Made By Defendants’ Clients Were Securities 30. The Defendants recommended that their clients invest in EB-5 offerings associated with at least five different EB-5 Promoters. Some of the Promoters had multiple offerings that the Defendants referred their clients to. 31. The Promoters are headquartered in the United States and at least two of them operate in this judicial district (Irvine, California and El Segundo, California). 32. The offerings required the Defendants’ foreign clients to invest a capital contribution of either $1 million or $500,000, and pay a separate administrative or management fee, which was used to pay other fees and expenses incurred by the Promoters, including the payment of commissions and finder’s fees. 33. The Promoters pooled the foreign investors’ capital contributions, but
  15. 15. 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 not the administrative fees, for the purpose of making loans to fund United States- based construction projects. 34. At the end of the loan term, the foreign investors expected to receive a return of their capital contributions. 35. The investments by the Defendants’ clients were passive investments, as they relied on others to develop the job-creating projects. 36. The Defendants’ clients were not involved in the making or servicing of loans on EB-5 construction projects or in the operation or management of the construction projects themselves. 37. Rather, the clients relied on the Promoters for the success of the projects and obtaining a return on their investments. 38. The limited partnership and limited liability company operating agreements for the EB-5 investments vested management control in the hands of the Promoters. 39. Thus, the Defendants’ clients were dependent on the efforts of others to realize their profits. 40. Generally, the Defendants circulated private placement memoranda and/or other offering documents to their clients for the offerings that the Defendants recommended their clients invest in. 41. These offering documents described the terms of the investment, and how the profits would be allocated to the investors. 42. The investments offered annual rates of return that generally ranged from approximately 0.5% to 0.8% of the capital contribution. 43. For example, one of the investments provided that net proceeds realized from the sale, repayment or distribution of realized profits from the limited partnership’s investments (including any interest) would be allocated and distributed 99% to the limited partners and 1% to the general partner. 44. Some of the investments also allowed for investors to earn additional
  16. 16. 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 returns if the Promoters extended the loan terms associated with the offerings. 45. Also, one EB-5 private placement memorandum that the Defendants circulated to their clients states that the investment of capital is intended to “generate revenue for the Partnership” and sets forth a formula pursuant to which annual interest is paid to the general partner and to the limited partners (that is, Feng’s clients). The limited partnership agreement associated with this offering also provides that the partners — that is, Feng’s clients — will “share in the risks, benefits, profits, and losses.” 46. Depending on the stage of the construction project, Defendants’ clients who invested in the EB-5 offerings would receive Schedule K-1s, which are federal tax documents for an investment in partnership interests, that would reflect the interest they had earned on their capital contributions. 47. The offering documents distributed to investors by the Defendants stated that the investments were being offered pursuant to exemptions from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws. 48. In addition, some of the offering documents associated with the clients’ investments also expressly described the investments as “securities.” D. Defendants Acted as Unregistered Brokers 49. As early as 2010, Feng began recommending offerings associated with certain Promoters as investments, in exchange for commissions on successful sales. In approximately 2013, Feng began intensifying his efforts to sell EB-5 investments. 50. Feng began providing a list of recommended EB-5 offerings to his clients through the Feng & Assocs. website in an effort to obtain more EB-5 investor clients. 51. Feng facilitated his clients’ investments in the EB-5 offerings by obtaining offering documents from the Promoters, printing out the signature pages of the documents, preparing instructions explaining what the clients should sign, and transmitting the signed offering documents to the Promoters.
  17. 17. 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 52. Feng interfaced directly with the Promoters regarding his clients’ EB-5 investments on their behalf. 53. In most instances, all of the communications and negotiations between the clients and the Promoters leading to the investment were channeled through Feng. 54. On several occasions, Feng or Feng & Assocs. also received EB-5 investment funds from clients that they transmitted to one of the Promoters. 55. Feng described himself to the Promoters as “marketing” or “promoting” the EB-5 investments. 56. On at least two occasions, Feng also requested allocations of spots in EB-5 offerings that he could sell to his clients. This required Feng to fill the allocated spots with investors by a certain date or give the spots up. Feng ultimately sold one of those offerings to seven of his clients. 57. Defendants or Feng’s nominees received commissions from the Promoters for the sales of EB-5 investments. Those commissions ranged from $15,000 to $70,000 per transaction. 58. Defendants or their nominees received payments from at least five Promoters for referring their clients to those Promoters’ EB-5 offerings. 59. In addition, if the USCIS approves other clients’ pending I-526 Petitions, the Defendants are contractually entitled to receive additional payments from the Promoters for referring those clients to those Promoters’ EB-5 offerings. 60. The Promoters wired the commissions out of United States-based bank accounts to accounts held by Feng or his nominees. 61. The commissions were governed by written referral fee agreements with the Promoters. The agreements were executed by Feng on behalf of Feng & Assocs. or by Feng’s nominees, which made payment of the commissions contingent on (1) an investor making the required capital contribution and (2) the USCIS approving the investor’s I-526 Petition. ///
  18. 18. 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 62. Feng is not, and has never been, registered with the SEC as a broker- dealer. 63. Feng & Assocs. is not, and has never been, registered with the SEC as a broker-dealer. E. Defendants Defrauded their Clients 64. As attorneys, the Defendants owed fiduciary, legal and ethical duties to their clients to disclose their receipt of commissions from the EB-5 Promoters whose offerings they recommended. 65. Defendants failed to disclose to their clients that the Defendants were receiving commissions from the EB-5 Promoters, and failed to disclose their conflicts of interest for the purpose of maximizing their own monetary compensation. 66. The Defendants knew, or were reckless or negligent in not knowing, that their receipt of commissions was not disclosed to their foreign clients investing in the Promoters’ EB-5 investments. 67. The Defendants’ receipt of commissions from the Promoters was material to the investors’ investment decisions. 68. That information, had it been disclosed, would have been significant information to investors, as it would have affected their assessment of Feng’s claimed objectivity and due diligence in recommending certain Promoters over others. 69. That information would also have affected the investors’ understanding and belief that Feng, as their legal representative and as a licensed attorney, was free of any undisclosed financial conflicts of interest in his dealings with his clients. 70. The commission payments to Feng, had they been disclosed, would also have affected the investors’ understanding of the overall terms, conditions, risks and costs associated with their EB-5 investments, and would have been significant information to them in deciding whether to proceed with the EB-5 investments that Feng recommended. 71. Rather than disclose their receipt or right to receive commissions from
  19. 19. 11 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 the Promoters, Defendants only told their clients about their receipt of commissions if the client specifically asked. 72. As a result, Defendants did not inform the vast majority of their clients that they received commissions from the Promoters. 73. The clients who did learn about the commissions requested that Defendants refund all or a portion of the commissions to them. 74. Feng knowingly, recklessly and/or negligently chose not to inform his clients about the commissions so that he could avoid having to negotiate with his clients to share or refund the commissions to them, which in many cases exceeded the legal fees he also charged them. F. Defendants Also Defrauded the Promoters 75. The Defendants’ practice of receiving commissions changed over time. Feng initially received wire transfer payments of referral fees starting in March 2011 directly into a United States-based bank account held in his name. 76. In or about May 2013, some of the Promoters informed Feng that they would not wire commissions to United States-based bank accounts as part of an apparent effort to avoid running afoul of the broker-dealer registration requirements contained in the federal securities laws. 77. As a result, Feng had relatives or friends act as “nominees” or “surrogates” to execute the referral fee agreements with the Promoters and to receive the commissions on his behalf or on behalf of Feng & Assocs. through overseas bank accounts. 78. In communications with some of the Promoters, Feng represented that the individuals he designated to sign the agreements or receive the commissions were “partners” or “agents” that he worked with in China. 79. The Defendants never disclosed to the Promoters that these “nominees” or “surrogates” were, in fact, Feng’s relatives or friends. 80. Also, in communications with some Promoters, Feng represented that
  20. 20. 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 these “nominees” or “surrogates” were the ones soliciting and referring investors to the Promoters, when, in fact, it was Feng or his employees. 81. These representations were materially false and misleading because certain of the Promoters would not have continued paying the Defendants to refer clients to the Promoters’ EB-5 investments if the Promoters knew that the agreements were not signed by bona fide partners or agents that had referred the investors, but rather by Feng’s relatives or friends. The Promoters would also not have continued paying the Defendants to refer clients if the Promoters knew that the commissions they were paying were being wired to bank accounts held by Feng’s relatives or friends. 82. Defendants knew, or were reckless or negligent in not knowing, that these representations to the Promoters were materially false and misleading because those individuals were actually Feng’s friends or relatives who played no substantive role in soliciting investors. 83. For example, in May 2013 Feng had his relative sign a referral fee agreement with one of the Promoters, which represented that his relative had access to sophisticated investors that the relative could introduce to parties interested in investing with the Promoter. 84. Similarly, in January and February 2014 Feng sent emails to another Promoter stating that “our partners” or “agents” in China would execute the referral fee agreements. Feng then had his relative who played no role in locating investors sign the referral fee agreement with this Promoter. 85. Feng’s relatives who signed these agreements with the Promoters were not partners or agents who found investors. Instead, they were nominees that Feng used to secretly receive commissions on his behalf. 86. In addition to designating friends or relatives as nominees to receive referral fees, Feng formed ABCL, a Hong Kong entity, in April 2014 for the purpose of receiving referral fee payments through a Hong Kong bank account that he
  21. 21. 13 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 controlled. 87. Feng had his relatives execute referral fee agreements with some of the Promoters, on behalf of ABCL, even though the relatives had no role with ABCL. 88. For example, in May 2014 Feng had a relative execute a referral fee agreement as a “principal” of ABCL even though that relative did not, in fact, have any such role. 89. In total, Feng and his nominees, including ABCL, have represented over 100 investors for EB-5 investments with at least five Promoters. 90. From at least March 2011 to April 2015, Defendants or their nominees, including ABCL, have received at least $1,168,000 in commissions from these five Promoters for their clients’ investments in those Promoters’ EB-5 offerings. 91. Those five Promoters have paid at least $662,000 in commissions to Defendants’ nominees. 92. In addition, the Defendants directly, or through their nominees, are contractually entitled to receive at least $3,100,000 more in commission payments upon the approval of the pending I-526 Petitions. FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF Fraud in the Offer or Sale of Securities Violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act (against all Defendants) 93. The SEC realleges and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 through 92 above. 94. Defendants, and each of them, by engaging in the conduct described above, directly or indirectly, in the offer or sale of securities by the use of means or instruments of transportation or communication in interstate commerce or by use of the mails: (a) with scienter, employed devices, schemes, or artifices to defraud; (b) obtained money or property by means of untrue statements of a
  22. 22. 14 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 material fact or by omitting to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading; or (c) engaged in transactions, practices, or courses of business which operated or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon the purchaser. 95. By engaging in the conduct described above, Defendants violated, and unless restrained and enjoined, will continue to violate, Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, 15 U.S.C. § 77q(a). SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF Fraud in Connection with the Purchase or Sale of Securities Violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 (against all Defendants) 96. The SEC realleges and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 through 92 above. 97. Defendants, by engaging in the conduct described above, directly or indirectly, in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, by the use of means or instrumentalities or interstate commerce, of the mails, or of the facilities of a national securities exchange, with scienter: (a) employed devices, schemes, or artifices to defraud; (b) made untrue statements of a material fact or omitted to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading; or (c) engaged in acts, practices or courses of business which operated or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon other persons. 98. By engaging in the conduct described above, Defendants violated, and unless restrained and enjoined, will continue to violate, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5.
  23. 23. 15 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 THIRD CLAIM FOR RELIEF Failure to Register as a Broker-Dealer Violation of Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act (against all Defendants) 99. The SEC realleges and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 through 92 above. 100. Defendants by engaging in the conduct described above, made use of the mails or means or instrumentalities of interstate commerce to effect transactions in, or to induce or attempt to induce the purchase or sale of securities, without being registered as brokers or dealers in accordance with Section 15(b) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78o(b). 101. By engaging in the conduct described above, Defendants violated, and unless restrained and enjoined will continue to violate, Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78o(a). PRAYER FOR RELIEF WHEREFORE, the SEC respectfully requests that the Court: I. Issue findings of fact and conclusions of law that Defendants committed the alleged violations. II. Issue orders, in a form consistent with Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d), permanently enjoining Defendants and their agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with any of them, who receive actual notice of the judgment by personal service or otherwise, and each of them, from violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78q(a); Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b- 5; and Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78o(a). ///
  24. 24. 16 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 III. Order Defendants to disgorge all ill-gotten gains from their illegal conduct, together with prejudgment interest thereon. IV. Order Defendants to pay civil penalties under Section 20(d) of the Securities Act, 15 U.S.C. § 77t(d), and Section 21(d)(3) of the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(3). V. Retain jurisdiction of this action in accordance with the principles of equity and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in order to implement and carry out the terms of all orders and decrees that may be entered, or to entertain any suitable application or motion for additional relief within the jurisdiction of this Court. VI. Grant such other and further relief as this Court may determine to be just and necessary. Dated: December 7, 2015 Respectfully submitted, /s/ Donald W. Searles Donald W. Searles Megan M. Bergstrom Attorneys for Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission

×